Frontline Initiative Healthcare

Frontline Notes

Welcome to our Frontline Initiative on Healthcare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 92.1% of children and 82.2% of adults have had contact with a healthcare professional within the past year. Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are often the first to know when the person they support isn’t feeling well or is in pain, and they often serve as an important liaison between the healthcare provider and the individual served. Because DSPs are responsible for facilitating the health promotion of the individuals they support, they must know how to balance their role in communicating the individual’s medical needs to the healthcare provider, and advocating for the person they support to have maximum control over, and to improve, their health. 

This issue approaches healthcare from multiple perspectives; it also provides useful information that is needed to support people with disabilities in making good choices related to their health. Joan and Daniel Gacki and DSP Kelly Stowell share their personal testimonies related to effective advocacy, leadership, and support in the midst of a dire prognosis. DSP Amanda Bruneau and Research Assistant Michael Bray describe the various roles of DSPs related to the healthcare of people they support. Self-advocate Zach Holler offers his important perspective on the role of a DSP in promoting and respecting individuals’ independent decisions related to their health. Dr. Seth Keller highlights the critical advocacy role of a DSP in the healthcare setting, and Dr. David Pavasko shares an important story about how having access to and obtaining proper dental care significantly improved one person’s quality of life. 

Being a DSP requires having awareness and basic understanding of health-related issues; in an overview of health considerations throughout the life course, Nancy Mcculloh provides useful information that DSPs can use as a quick reference, and that supervisors can use to facilitate discussion at a staff meeting or training. Beth Marks, RN, PhD and Jasmina Sisirak, MPH, PhD describe a DSP’s key role in observing and reporting early signs and symptoms of emerging health conditions. Megan Graf from Project HEALTH in Tennessee and Toni O’Brien from Dakota Communities in Minnesota describe two important organizational wellness initiatives for individuals with disabilities and their DSPs. We hope you will enjoy this issue as you learn more about supporting individuals to live healthy lives.